Farewell, Ruth Bell Graham

Billy&Ruth.jpgRuth Bell Graham died today at the age of 87. She was the wife of evangelist Billy Graham and the mother of their five children. The obituary from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports that Billy and their children were all present by her bedside as she passed away in Little Piney Cove, their expansive homestead in Montreat, North Carolina. The Los Angeles Times reports that Ruth will be buried at the foot of the cross in the Prayer Garden of the recently-opened Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.

My wife and I visited the Billy Graham Library just this past Tuesday, stopping by on our drive home from Florida. We took a number of pictures, including this one of the Prayer Garden where Ruth will be memorialized. It is a beautiful, peaceful setting, adjacent to the Library and the recreated Graham Family Homestead.PrayerGarden.jpg

Among the many exhibits in the Library is a special room devoted to the life of Ruth Graham. She was a remarkable woman who led a full life. She was born in China as the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries Dr. Nelson and Virginia Bell. Early in her life, Ruth had dreamed of being a missionary in Tibet. But then Ruth met Billy while they were students at Wheaton College in Illinois. They were married in 1943, shortly after they graduated from Wheaton. I took the picture below of Ruth’s diploma from Wheaton, which is on display in the Library. Next to the diploma is one of the tin cans she made into light fixtures in the Graham home in Montreat, North Carolina. Apparently she was a very resourceful homemaker.RBGDiploma.jpg

The Billy Graham Library is really more of a museum than a library. For scholars, historians and others interested in Dr. Graham’s papers and writings, a more academic library is located at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. Nevertheless, the Billy Graham Library is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Charlotte area. There are numerous multimedia exhibits in the Library, as well as a bookstore and a small cafe. If you take the complete tour, you can expect to be exposed to some mild proselytizing, including the traditional “invitation” in the “finale” theater, with the obligatory “Just As I Am” music in the background and a group of counselors waiting to pray with you as you leave the auditorium. But to anyone who has attended a Billy Graham crusade or watched one on television, the evangelistic flavor of the closing moments of the tour seems entirely fitting. Indeed, I remarked to my wife as we were leaving how I thought today’s preachers could benefit from the simple, direct and positive approach that was Dr. Graham’s hallmark.

The Billy Graham Library is located at 4330 Westmont Drive, just off of Billy Graham Parkway, and not far from I-77 and the Charlotte airport. Admission is free, and the complete tour takes about an hour or so. If you would like to see more pictures from our visit, I’ve posted some in a Picassa Web Album.

Booker T. Washington National Monument

On our drive home from our recent Caribbean Cruise, my wife and I decided to skip I-95 and try a more inland route, closer to the Appalachian Mountains. As a result, our route took us through Rocky Mount, Virginia, and the nearby Booker T. Washington National Monument. We enjoyed a visit to this picturesque and informative memorial to one of the most noted African Americans in higher education.

Many people have heard of Booker T. Washington, but they may not know why he was significant. As the helpful guide at the Monument told us, a lot of people confuse Booker T. Washington with George Washington Carver. That’s not surprising, given that both were African Americans, both were born into slavery, both would grow up to become famous educators, both taught at the Tuskegee Institute, both worked to improve race relations in the years following the Civil War, both have National Monuments honoring their memories, and both had Washington in their names. But there were two very different people: Booker was from Virginia while George was from Missouri; Booker founded the Tuskegee Institute, and later invited George to join the faculty; Booker was the more controversial figure, called “The Great Accommodator” by W.E.B. DuBois because he favored cooperation over confrontation in the fight for civil rights; George was perhaps the more widely remembered figure among school children because of his numerous inventions and innovations centered around peanuts.

I’m hardly an expert on African American history, but I’m glad I spent some time learning more about the life of Booker T. Washington at the Monument’s Visitor Center. Not only was it an informative and interesting stop, the Monument is in a beautiful setting, with well-maintained grounds. There are farm animals and crops growing in the fields, a handful of recreated cabins and barns from the mid-1800s, and numerous interpretive signs helping illustrate the natural environment that Booker T. Washington experienced as a young boy growing up as a slave in Franklin County, Virginia.

A Day at Princess Cays

Today the Caribbean Princess stopped at Princess Cays, a private beach for guests of Princess Cruises. It is located on the southern end of Eleutheria Island in the Bahamas, near Bannerman Town.

Although many passengers (including myself at first) pronounced “cays” like “kays,” according to Wikipedia and the online dictionary of Merriam-Webster, the word is more correctly pronounced “keys” as in the Florida Keys and Key West. A cay is a small island, often part of a cluster of islands. Princess Cays is actually a small group of islands connected to Eleutheria Island by a short bridge “to the mainland.”

Unlike other cruise ship ports, where passengers generally must pay extra for food, beach chairs and cabanas, these amenities are provided at Princess Cays (although you can pay extra to reserve a cabana if you wish, as well as rent various water sports equipment). There is no cruise ship pier, so the ship was anchored a good distance away and passengers were “tendered” to and from the beach aboard a fleet of reasonably comfortable lifeboats.

We enjoyed a lazy day at the beach. The weather was a bit threatening, and the water slightly cool, so I was the only one in our party of four to actually swim out any distance. Although it took a minute to adjust to the water,  I eventually swam out about 100 yards. The water was a beautiful clear blue, and the sand was soft (although not quite as smooth as the pink sands of Bermuda). Many of my fellow passengers went snorkeling, and I could see some extensive coral reefs underneath where I was swimming.

After a generous informal buffet lunch on the beach, I walked around the various vendor stands to shop for souvenirs. I didn’t find anything worth buying inside the Princess Cays compound, so I took a short stroll outside of the main entrance gate to look at the booths set up by local artisans. Unfortunately, there seemed to be very little different to choose from outside the gates, although the vendors did seem to be more willing to haggle on price.

So even though we returned to the ship sans curios, we had some pleasant memories of a relaxing day. There was a bit of a wait for the tender ship back to the ship, as the storm clouds grew more threatening in the afternoon. But we made it back to the ship before the rain became a downpour.

On the way to Florida…and beyond

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the parking lot of an outlet mall near St. Augustine, Florida. My wife and I are on our way to visit my mom for a couple of days before heading down to Ft. Lauderdale to catch a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We’ve cruised the Western Caribbean before, and have been wanting to cruise out to the Eastern side. Our ports of call include the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, a tiny island that is jointly owned by the Dutch and the French. We’ll also visit St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are just northeast of Puerto Rico. Although it’s rather warm this time of year, we hope the trade winds will keep us cool We’re exited to set sail!

The Devil You Know

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a performance of “The Devil You Know,” a two-act play written and directed by Andrea Daniels. Performed by the Barley Sheaf Players, the performance was a benefit for The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.

The Devil You KnowThe play was a thoughtful and sensitive treatment of the emotional, psychological and social issues surrounding domestic violence. It is the story of Annabel (played by Mary Kate Kenney), a young woman who fled her childhood home where she lived with her two sisters and a physically and verbally abusive mother. Ten years after running away, she returns to confront her past and the family she left behind. But before she musters the courage to confront her mother, Annabel finds herself falling in love with the charmingly mysterious Gabe (played by Chris Tribel). Gabe also grew up in an abusive environment, and is in treatment for battering his former wife. The bittersweet romance that develops between Annabel and Gabe reflects the unfortunate tendency for victims of abuse to find themselves attracted to abusive personality types. The story provides a probing and sympathetic look into the lives of those caught up in the perpetual cycle of domestic violence, and the struggle to overcome “the devil you know.”

Laura ShayMaking a significant contribution to the impact of the performance was the haunting music of Laura Shay. I heard Laura’s music at last year’s performance of “Counting Mississippis,” where I also purchased her CD, “To a Place.” I subsequently wrote a brief review of this recording on iTunes, where it is available for download. I have to say that her music for “The Devil You Know” was particularly refined, and would hope that at least some of it will appear on a future CD release. In the meantime, you can listen to more of her music on her MyPlace site.

By the way, the above photo of Laura Shay was taken by Nicole Ulicney, one of my former teaching assistants in the large lecture class I teach at West Chester University. More of her photographic talent is on display on her web site, nicoleulicnyphoto.com.


Mariner Software has just released an upgrade to MacJournal, which is the software I’ve been using lately to maintain this blog. I find it much more powerful than iWeb for blogging, and offers a number of useful features for writing any kind of journal. It seems like a worthwhile upgrade, and is free to registered owners of the 4.0 version of the product.

One of the reasons why I like this program is the full screen writing mode. This mode helps you focus on writing by turning your screen black and displaying the text you are writing in a large green font centered in the middle of the screen. It reminds me a lot of the kind of computer journal featured on the television program “Doogie Howser, M.D.”